SARTELL (WJON News) -- Sartell has voted to use city dollars to help bring more childcare to the community.

During its meeting Monday night, the city council voted unanimously to add a Childcare Grant category to its Community Grant Program.

City Administrator Ana Gruber says, according to the United Way of Central Minnesota, Sartell alone is in need of 443 additional childcare spots, and in the St. Cloud metro area over 1,000 new spots are needed.

The grant program would give licensed daycare centers funds based on the number of new spots they create. A facility could get $5,000 for creating up to 50 new spots, all the way up to $20,000 for creating 200 spots.

Gruber says the money would come from the city’s economic development fund.

The economic development fund has a pretty healthy balance right now.  You might recall that we have been taking the development director's salary and dedicating it to the economic development fund for the time being.  So we think that is a fund we can use to fund these requests if we receive any.

Mayor Ryan Fitzthum says by helping to create more childcare options, the city will also benefit with more commercial and residential growth.

I would note you didn't call out residential growth.  I think there is a significant side to residential growth here.  You generally find a place of daycare between your house and your place of business.  I think it's going to have a positive impact on residential growth as well.

Gruber says studies have shown that for every $1 invested in childcare, there is a $16 return on investment.

The final approved amount would be at the discretion of the city staff and city council. The council requested a sunset for the program in July of 2028.

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The money has to be used for either a new facility or the expansion of a facility in Sartell that adds to the number of daycare spots in the city.

The Community Grant Program was started in Sartell in 2022, the other two categories for funding are community service grants and multi-year grant commitments.

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